These two are geographically close resorts on the Guerrero Mexican Pacific Coast but they are entirely different types of places in character.
Ixtapa (eeks-TAH-pa) was built in the 70’s by the Fonatur; the Mexican government tourism development agency and was established very much with the tourist in mind. It has two beautiful golf courses, major hotels, private condo developments, Marina, restaurants from the very elegant to the fast food even Domino’s Pizza that gets delivered to the beach, at least three banks and a dollar exchanger, information and time share booths, fine silver jewelry, boutiques, to the plastic souvenir shops dot the main street through town and a small supermarket that is really a liquor store that sell a few extras like some fruit and items for personal needs.
The streets are well maintained two lanes with very good signage for getting around. Good taxi and bus service too. Mostly the people you see walking the streets are tourist not the Mexican families that you will find in most cities and towns. It is very tourist friendly but lacking in the Mexican charm that most people come here for. You can find everything you need here but personality.
I do find Ixtapa to be to touristy and high priced for me, but it does work well for most tourists. Lots of souvenirs shops, water sports, banana boat and parasailing, snorkeling, surf shop with lessons and rental and with a very nice marina. It seems to be a little sterile; after all I came to Mexico for the Mexican flair that Ixtapa lacks.
I still favor the beach style restaurants that I have about a mile away from my RV Camping Park on Playa Linda where I’m staying at.
Zihuatanejo (see-wah-tah-NEH-ho) is a Mexican fishing village at heart and has been around from as far back as 3000BC. With the development of its neighbor it has benefited with employment, paved streets, a few big box stores and several banks. But all in all has maintained its Mexican charm with the streets lined with its small family run shops, hand crafted souvenir shops, fish sold on the beach as the fisherman come in with that days catch. Mexican families live and work here. Usually you find that the family that has a shop here; lives over it, in this way adding to its charm and family connection.
In fact the real name Cihuatlan means “place of women” referencing the matriarchal society, in which weaving was the main occupation. The mispronouncing of the name has led to the current spelling much in the same way that today’s Seattle has evolved.
I prefer Zihuatanejo to Ixtapa do to its charm and down to earth connection with the locals. But the fact that these two resorts are so close to each other that gives the tourist the best of both worlds.
I recommend these places be put on your “places to visit list” and be sure to pack you swimsuits and sunblock.